The 2014 postseason is upon us. How will knowing foul ball stats help each team? That is what we are going to look at over the postseason.
All stats are from the 2013 season for either a night game or a day game, depending on when it is being played, and at-bats that included 1 or more foul balls. The following data comes from our foul ball database that draws from Retrosheet.org.
All percentages represent a combination of batters who got on base themselves, helped force an error, a wild pitch, a steal or otherwise generated offense.
ALDS: Game 3
Tigers vs. Orioles
Price last season faced more right-handed batters than lefties by a lot. Granted, there are significantly more right-handed players than left, but Price only had a showdown with 12 who hit one or more fouls against him. Against the 49 right-handed at-bats we faced with one or more foul balls, Price allowed 17 to do something offensively; 34.7% of righties managed to do something. Of the twelve fellow south paws he faced, only one did anything.
Miguel Gonzalez, on the other hand, only let nine right-handed hitters generate offense of the 52 (17.3%) he went up against. His numbers were about the same versus lefties against whom he allowed 12 of 59 (20.3%) to do anything.
The key to Tigers’ success against Gonzalez will be swinging away. They don’t have any choice in the matter according to the freakily low offense generated after one or more foul balls. The Orioles simply have to run a right-handed dominant lineup against Price to wear him down.
Prediction: If the recipes above are followed, Gonzalez will be off the mound by the 7th inning, and Price will be done after 5, no more than 6.
Royals vs. Angels
The Angels are trotting out CJ Wilson for Game 3. Wilson’s foul ball numbers are solid against left-handed batters, but by starter standards, high against right-handed hitters. In 179 plate appearances, righties produced offense 35.2% of the time. More than 1/3rd of right-handed batters, then, forced Wilson into throwing a pitch that resulted in a hit, or they forced him into an error, giving up a stolen base or other play that was advantageous to the offense. When he faced off against the opposite side of the place, however, he allowed only 21.8% of the batters to create offense. Only 12 of 55 ended in successful at-bats.
The foul ball numbers for Royals starter James Shields aren’t significantly different than Wilson’s.
Shields allowed fewer right-handed batters on base percentage-wise than Wilson. And, like Wilson, he shuts down left-handed batters after they slap one or more fouls. Shields faced 93 right-handed at-bats; of those 30 batters got on or helped force an error, wild pitch or steal for a 32.3% success rate. But, like Wilson, Shields was able to shut down left-handed batters after one or more foul balls. In the 115 at-bats, 25 batters got on or helped force an error, wild pitch or steal for 21.7% success against him.
This is going to be one heck of a pitching match-up based on the foul ball percentages. They are only marginally different against right-handed batting, but virtually dead-on the same versus left-handed hitters.
As for the lineups the Royals and Angels should have against these pitchers, it’s clear that two right-handed heavy lineups will give each team the best chance to get to the bullpen earlier.
Prediction: Shields and Wilson both last a minimum of 7 innings. I’m comfortable with saying both may go as far as 8+.